Respite Care Services for Families With Special Needs

Caretaker with elderly patient

Taking care of a family member with special needs can be more than a full-time job. As a parent and/or caregiver, it’s natural to want to give your all to your loved one, but everyone needs a break, whether that’s to go to an appointment, run errands, or just have time for yourself.

Respite care provides that temporary break by putting your family member in someone else’s care. It can be hard to leave your child, teen or other family member with special needs, but taking time away from caregiving duties is essential to your well-being and benefits your loved one as well.

What is respite care?

Respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers — anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Respite care can be arranged daily, weekly or as needed.

Care may be provided:

  • In the home through an agency or from a caregiver you find and train yourself
  • In the caregiver’s home
  • In a facility, such as a hospital or residential facility
  • At an adult day center, school, camp, faith-based or volunteer agency

Consider what’s best for you and your family member when deciding where respite care will take place. In-home care offers convenience — everything you need is already there, and you don’t have to worry about transportation. Your family member may feel more comfortable being home, too.

Respite care outside the home can offer your loved one more stimulation by exposing them to new people, experiences, and surroundings. It may also be a good choice if you want to stay home yourself during your time off from caregiving responsibilities.

Where can I find respite care?

As a military family, you may qualify for respite care for your child or teen through Child Care Aware. This organization has partnered with the military services to provide respite care to families with children up to age 18 who have special needs and are enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program.

Other places to look for information and respite care options for children and adults include:

  • Your state’s Lifespan Respite Program, if it has one. Lifespan Respite Programs are run by state agencies to provide community-based respite for family caregivers.
  • The National Respite Locator. This online tool can link you to information on respite funding and caregiver supports in your state.
  • State Respite Coalitions. These membership organizations represent people with disabilities. Some of these organizations provide training and respite vouchers.
  • Nonprofit organizations related to your family member’s condition may be able to refer you to respite services in your community.
  • A “co-op” in which you and other families take turns watching each other’s loved ones. Family support groups are a good place to meet others interested in forming a respite care co-op.

Where can I find help paying for respite care?

There are several options where you may find help paying for respite care.

Your installation’s Exceptional Family Member Family Support can help you with many aspects of caring for a family member with special needs, including navigating respite care. You can also schedule a special needs consultation 24/7 by calling 800-342-9647 or through live chat. If you’re overseas, view international calling options.

Online Survivor Benefits Report

Online Survivor Benefits Report

To assist survivors in determining the survivor benefits they should be receiving and for future financial planning, there are initial and interactive online survivor benefits reports.

Military Heroes Honored

A new Defense Department online memorial honors service members who died while serving honorably on active duty since 1985, including peacetime deaths. Survivors may submit names for inclusion.

The casualty assistance officer should provide the initial OSBR shortly after a service member’s death. This report is available online for six months for eligible survivors to access.

The interactive OSBR displays all current and estimated future survivor benefits. It also allows survivors to input “what if”-type changes to family members’:

  • Education status and plans
  • Disability status
  • Marital status

This information is invaluable for a family’s financial planning. Eligible survivors of service members who died on active duty can access this report. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To gain access to the reports, surviving family members must provide their email address to the OSBR Family Assistance Support Team.

Once they provide their email address to FAST, users will need to visit their individual service branch websites and enter the email address they provided to FAST to request access to their reports.

They will then receive an email from containing a one-time link to view, download and/or print their benefit reports.

To receive assistance with accessing reports, users can contact the FAST by:

To view personal reports, users can select the appropriate branch of service below, and enter the email address they provided to FAST then follow the instructions on the site:

Voting Becomes Easier for the Mobile Military Life

Flag with vote button

As a guardian of our nation, you protect the American way of life. And the Federal Voting Assistance Program is here to ensure that you and your family are able to exercise your right to vote.

About three-quarters of the 1.4 million active-duty service members are eligible to vote by absentee ballot due to their being stationed outside their voting jurisdictions. And thanks to amendments to the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (1986), it’s easier for relocated and overseas service members and spouses to register and submit absentee ballots.

Military Absentee Voting Made Simple

No matter where you are, the Federal Post Card Application helps you ensure that your vote is counted in a few simple steps.

Today, states are required to send ballots to service members and eligible family members at least 45 days before federal elections and to provide electronic options for voters to receive those ballots. The change boosted the rate of successfully counted absentee ballots sent from service members from 30% in 2006 to 53% in 2018.

FVAP helps you vote. Wherever you are.

FVAP provides assistance for service members and eligible family members to register to vote, request an absentee ballot and check the status of a ballot for federal offices no matter where they’re located.

Now it’s easier than ever to:

  • Register to vote – whether it’s your first time, you have relocated or you have separated from the military
  • Request your absentee ballot
  • Vote and submit your absentee ballot

Most states require you to register to vote or request an absentee ballot to start the process. The expanded use of electronic options for sending and receiving federal election materials has made it much easier to vote by absentee ballot. That’s important as two-thirds of military voters are absentee voters.

It’s best to start the absentee voting process early. Here are easy ways to demonstrate your readiness and ensure that your vote is cast and counted:

Many states allow you to submit your FPCA electronically, and all states accept at least one form of electronic transmission to send you a blank ballot. Many states accept the ballot by email or fax, while some only accept the ballot by mail. Mail delivery times vary based on where you live. If your state requires you to mail your ballot, then you can make sure your vote is counted by mailing your ballot early to allow for extra time.

Since voting materials that are mailed can’t be forwarded, it’s important for you to provide your election office with your new address after every move. Consider sending in a new FPCA every year. Also, federal elections can come up suddenly, even during non-election years. Submitting the FPCA each year helps ensure that you will receive a ballot for all federal elections for which you are eligible.

Voting when transitioning out of the military

If you are transitioning to civilian life, you should notify your election office of your change in voter registration status and update your information so you can vote locally in the next election. Depending on whether you are staying in the same voting district after military separation, or if you are moving to a new state or county, there are just one or two easy steps to take, which you can find at

More information

When you want to vote – whether you’re entering the military, casting a ballot for the first time, relocating or transitioning or retiring from the military – and have questions about casting your ballot, your Installation Voter Assistance Office will likely have the answers. Go to or call 800-438-VOTE (8683).

Federal Voting Assistance Program resources

Coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic: Voters can find helpful resources on, including COVID-19 information and two visual maps that depict how states accept the FPCA or ballot.

Envelopes: Voters can also download postage-paid envelope templates that will allow them to mail back their voting materials free of charge from any military post at a military installation or via diplomatic pouch at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas.

Languages: Voters who prefer to read absentee voting information in Arabic, French or Spanish can find translations of instructions for filling out the FPCA and FWAB.

Installation Voting Assistance Office: Active-duty military and military spouses can find and get help from their IVAO.

Subscribe: Voters can also subscribe to receive voting emails.

Calendars: Voters also have access to voting alerts and calendar reminders for their state.

Social media: Voters can follow FVAP on social media to tune in to Facebook Live events, absentee voting best practices and more.

Hobbies – The Essentials

Service member woodworking

Hobbies can be a stressbuster and contribute to mission and family readiness. They are a great way to spend time alone, meet new people or bring you together with family and friends. Hobbies can also help you relax, learn and strengthen your bonds with others.

Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you pursue a hobby:

Have fun on a small budget.

Your budget doesn’t have to dictate your fun. There are plenty of recreation and entertainment options available close by that you can enjoy at virtually no cost to you and your family. Train for a local race or try joining a recreation league involving your favorite sport. Join a book club or start one of your own. Take on small carpentry jobs around the house, make crafts, garden or build furniture.

Relevant resource:


Volunteering can help you connect with your community. Ask around your installation or community center about working as a tutor, mentor or coach. Or consider working at an animal shelter or local park, or with any group involved with something you enjoy.

Relevant resources:

Learn about your new surroundings.

If you’ve recently moved, hobbies can be a great way to connect with your new location and learn about the area. If you’ve moved overseas, take the opportunity to learn a new language. Cooking is also a great way to explore local traditions as you shop for new ingredients and try different foods.

Relevant resource:

2021 Blue Star Museums

The 2021 Blue Star Museums program has ended. Check back here next spring for information on how to join the 2022 program.

Visit a museum.

Between Armed Forces Day in May and Labor Day in September, you can soak up history, science or another piece of culture by visiting museums across America. This is part of the Blue Star Museums initiative, a collaborative effort between the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and participating museums.

Relevant article:

Relevant resource:

Reach-S Demonstration

American flag

An important first step to living your best MilLife is knowing it’s OK to ask for help. REACH-S — Resources Exist, Asking Can Help-Spouse — was created to empower military spouses to do just that.

REACH-S is an initiative for military spouses to destigmatize mental health challenges, normalize help-seeking and connect those in need with support. Facilitators can access materials to support REACH-S demonstrations through the links below.

REACH-S is implemented through small-group discussions divided into two sessions.

  • Session One focuses on military spouses’ barriers to seeking mental health care, solutions to these barriers and self-care practices.
  • Session Two focuses on the service member’s barriers to seeking mental health care and teaches suicide prevention skills to military spouses.


Facilitator Manuals

Facilitator manuals provide everything you need to lead both REACH-S sessions. Separate manuals are available for active-duty spouses and National Guard and reserve spouses.


Resources Handout

Distribute this comprehensive list of resources to REACH-S demonstration participants. This handout includes space to add local resources.


Session One

Demonstration Video — Session One

View this demonstration video of an example REACH-S Session One presentation, which focuses on overcoming barriers, finding resources and thriving as a military spouse. This video can help you prepare to facilitate your own REACH-S presentation.


Slide Decks — Session One

Download the slide deck to accompany your REACH-S Session One presentation.


Session Two

Demonstration Video — Session Two

View this demonstration video of an example REACH-S Session Two presentation, which focuses on supporting service members’ mental health and well-being. This video can help you prepare to facilitate your own REACH-S presentation.


Slide Decks — Session Two

Download the slide deck for your REACH-S Session Two presentation.


Looking for the REACH Facilitator Demonstration for Service Members

REACH materials are also available specifically for service members to get in front of challenges by seeking help early. Take the REACH Facilitator Training course on MilLife Learning.

Note: Military Research and Outreach (REACH) is an unrelated program that makes research about military families accessible and practical for military families, direct-service helping professionals and those who work on behalf of military families. Browse the Military REACH Library.

Cyberbullying: Recognizing the signs and helping your child

A child holds a cellphone

Online communication offers a convenient way for military families to keep in touch with friends and family during deployments and throughout frequent moves. But with the amount of online communication taking place in today’s world, there are some things to watch out for when it comes to keeping your children safe.

According to cyberbullying statistics from i-SAFE Inc., a nonprofit leader in internet safety education, more than half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.

Given the prominent role technology plays in children’s lives, it’s important for parents to understand cyberbullying, be aware of where it can leak into a child’s environment and explore resources and tools to help create a plan to prevent and address cyberbullying, whether their child is a target, a participant or both.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is unwanted and repeated aggressive behavior that takes place through digital or electronic devices. adds that cyberbullying includes “sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful, false or mean content about someone else” and “sharing personal or private information about someone else” that brings them embarrassment and/or humiliation.

These virtual exchanges can be hurtful, and their effects can carry over to face-to-face interactions.

Cyberbullying can leak into your child’s world through avenues such as:

  • Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms
  • Text messaging, email and messaging apps on phones, tablets and computers
  • Online gaming communities, via voice or through messaging inside the game app
  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, online chatrooms and various websites

Strategies to protect your child against cyberbullying behaviors

If your child is the target of cyberbullying, they will likely need your guidance in navigating the maze of securing cybersafety.

The first thing to do is find out what happened:

  • Talk with them to better understand the situation.
  • Ensure that your children are (and feel) safe.
  • Ask them calmly about the details of the situation — it’s important to understand how it began, who said what and how the interactions escalated.
  • Listen to how they feel and express empathy.
  • Offer assurance that you will help them address the content and the bullying behavior.

Together, you can take these and other steps to deal with the issue:

  • Do not respond to or forward messages.
  • Block the person who is cyberbullying.
  • Report the cyberbullying to the website, app or cellphone service provider
  • Keep a record of the messages that include dates and times as well as screenshots of bullying texts and comments.
  • Change email addresses, screen names, phone numbers and passwords, as necessary.
  • Consult with your school’s administration if the bullying takes place during school hours or on school-issued devices. All 50 states have laws pertaining to cyberbullying, and those laws guide schools in dealing with these aggressions.
  • Contact local law enforcement to report threats of violence, sexually explicit content, unauthorized videos and stalking.

Signs that a child may be cyberbullying others

The roles all of us play in virtual space are fluid — it is easy to cross over from being the target of cyberbullying to being a cyberbully.

Be aware that this can happen easily, and it’s important to get a handle on it quickly. Detecting whether a child or teen is engaging in cyberbullying is a little trickier than with traditional bullying, but youth may demonstrate similar behaviors to face-to-face bullying. Check out this article on how to identify and address bullying behaviors.

Teens may be engaging in cyberbullying activities if they:

  • Switch off their screens quickly or try to hide their devices when you are close by
  • Use or want to use their devices at all hours of the night
  • Avoid discussions about what they’re doing online, won’t disclose with whom they’re engaging or won’t share what they’re laughing about
  • Show increases in behavioral issues at home or at school

Tips for addressing your child’s cyberbullying behaviors

If you think your child may be engaging in cyberbullying, it is best to approach the situation with an open mind. As mentioned above, the roles played in virtual communication spaces can shift quickly. The goal is to explore, understand and correct cyberbullying behavior and prevent your child or teen from engaging in the behavior in the future.

  • Maintain open communications with teens. Make sure they know they can come to you to discuss issues they’re having with peers — online or offline.
  • Ask questions so you can better understand specific situations. How did the interactions begin? Did they feel attacked or victimized? Is their behavior a form of retaliation?
  • Be clear about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior and the importance of demonstrating respect for others, in person and in virtual spaces.
  • Help your child understand how it would feel to be the target of cyberbullying.
  • Set up parental controls, if necessary, to monitor your child’s online activities.
  • Connect with other parents or seek counseling services for you or your child.

Talk openly with your children about cyberbullying, keep a pulse on their online interactions and share strategies for dealing with the issue. By doing so, you can teach them to be aware of their behaviors and help them navigate difficult situations. For additional help, contact Military OneSource to speak with a child and youth counselor. Call 800-342-9646, find OCONUS dialing options or start a live chat.

Preparing for Your PCS Move

Couple planning for move

There are several steps in the moving process that occur before packing even begins. Understanding what each step includes can help ensure a smooth transition. Your local transportation office can answer questions and provide assistance with all aspects of your move, from understanding entitlements and allowances to scheduling your shipments.

Step 1: Receiving assignment notification

While each service does this slightly differently, you are typically notified that you will be moving through an assignment notification process. This could be done through an email, a phone call or a notification from a supervisor. It’s important to understand that an assignment notification does not mean that you have “orders” yet. At this stage, it’s recommended that you start some of the preparation work, which may include looking at places to live at your new destination and getting yourself organized for the pending move. The one constant within the Department of Defense is change, so we caution you not to make any permanent decisions (i.e. home purchase) until you have orders in hand.

Here are a few things you can do while you wait for your official orders:

Step 2: Receiving your orders

In general, your moving process will start with the job/travel orders you receive from your service or agency. In your orders, information describing your rank, the duration of your job/training, and your assigned location will determine whether your entire dependent family can come, what you are allowed to bring, and how those items will arrive to your new location.

Your orders are an important document, so make sure everything is accurate. Verify the administrative details (your name, Social Security number, etc.) and make sure it has the correct duty station, dependent information and reporting dates. If you see anything that does not look right, let your administration know right away that there is an error so it can be corrected as soon as possible. If you have any questions, your local transportation office is the place to go for help deciphering your orders as they pertain to moving.

Understanding different types of assignments and destinations

PCS, or permanent change of station, is when you are assigned to a location for 20 weeks, regardless of whether your assignment pertains to training or a new job. In these circumstances, you should be allowed a full household goods move should you choose to take it.

TDY, or temporary duty, is when you are temporarily assigned to a new location for an extended period of time (over 31 days) but generally less than 20 weeks. For TDY, it is common that only a small subset of your household belongings will be able to travel with you to your new location.

CONUS moves start and end within the 48 contiguous states of the U.S. and District of Columbia

OCONUS moves are to or from Alaska and Hawaii, and international locations.

Note: First time movers, separating service members and retirees must contact their local transportation office before scheduling a move in DPS.

Step 3: Scheduling your move

Now that you have orders in hand, you get to choose how to ship your goods and schedule your move dates. You should contact your local transportation office to schedule an info/counseling session and learn what options there are for transporting your goods.

Using the Defense Personal Property System, or DPS

DPS is the online system you use to upload your orders and create shipment(s) (e.g. household goods, unaccompanied baggage, non-temporary storage, personally procured move, etc.). You can log in using a common access card, or CAC, or by obtaining a user ID and password before accessing DPS. Follow the instructions in the “New User Registration” tutorial in DPS when setting up your account. After that, follow the instructions in the “Create a Shipment” or “Create a PPM Shipment” tutorial.

When creating your shipment, you will select the packing and pickup dates. This will be a seven-day spread window starting with actual pickup date requested during your self-counseling or counseling session with your local personal property office. Learn more about the 7 Day Spread Window Policy.

Once your shipment application (DD Form 1299) has been created and submitted, the personal property processing office, or PPPO, will review and submit for routing and awarding to a transportation service provider, or TSP.

Note: First time movers, separating service members and retirees must contact their local transportation office before scheduling a move in DPS.

When you sign in to DPS you can expect to be asked a series of questions about your move. Make sure you are prepared to provide the following:

  • Your contact information
  • Estimated weight
  • Pickup and delivery locations
  • Pickup and delivery dates
  • Special entitlement items (boat, guns, large electronics, etc.)
  • Estimated weight of professional books, papers and equipment, or PBP&E

Related Forms:

Choosing how to ship your goods and understanding move types

When scheduling your move, you will have some choices to make regarding how your belongings are shipped to your new destination. Remember, you can split up your total allowable weight into multiple shipments. For example, most service members doing a PCS CONUS move will have both a personally procured move, also known as a PPM or “do it yourself,” and a household goods, or HHG, shipment using a government-furnished moving company for the bulk of their belongings. If you have any questions, your local transportation office is the place to go for help figuring out how to break up your weight into various shipments.

HHG, or a household goods move, is a move completed by a government-furnished moving company, also called a transportation service provider, or TSP. During a HHG move, your TSP is responsible for packing all of your belongings and transporting them to your new location.

Approved for:
Permanent change of station, or PCS

Permanent change of station, or PCS

Note: If your HHG shipment includes storage-in-transit you may have the option to request the use of a container. Shipments in containers are dependent on what the moving and storage industry is able to provide at the time of your move. To learn more about shipments in containers, visit the Crating section of Frequently Asked Questions for PCS and Military Moves.

PPM, or a personally procured move, is a do-it-yourself move within the military. You will be responsible for either packing/unpacking and transporting your belongings to your new location yourself or hiring your own commercial moving company. You can use portable moving and storage containers, rental trucks, or any other method of your choosing to conduct a PPM.

PPMs are especially recommended for any irreplaceable valuables you own, such as family heirlooms, photos and important documents or for necessities you will need immediately at your new location while waiting for your transporter to arrive. To learn more about PPMs check out the PPM Factsheet.

As an incentive to move yourself, the government will pay you 100% of the government’s constructed “best value” cost to hire a moving company on your behalf or perform your own move. If you can move your belongings yourself for less money, you get to keep the difference. Remember, this money is considered an incentive and is based on the household goods weight you actually transport, not to exceed your authorized weight allowance. If necessary, for most branches of military service you can receive an advance payment of up to 60 percent of the incentive value.

If the government cannot arrange an HHG move within the timeframe you request, you may be authorized to do a PPM and in some cases receive reimbursement of the actual coast associated with hiring a commercial moving company if approved in advance by your military service or agency. Contact your local transportation office for more details.

Approved for:
Temporary Duty, or TDY
Permanent Change of Station, or PCS

Temporary Duty, or TDY

Note: There’s no incentive PPM for DOD civilians. Civilians are only authorized actual cost reimbursement for expenses incurred or the commuted rate based on the General Services Administration schedule.

Related Forms:

UB, or unaccompanied baggage, is an option for shipments where a small subset of your total weight allowance is expedited to your new location, typically while you wait for the rest of your belongings to arrive at a later date. UB shipments are approved for CONUS TDY and OCONUS TDY and PCS.

POV, or privately owned vehicle, shipment and storage is available for some moves. In general, if you are traveling overseas or outside of the contiguous United States the government may pay to ship one POV to your new duty station or store one POV during your OCONUS tour. You will need to make an appointment with the global POV contractor, International Auto Logistics, or IAL, and take it to a vehicle processing center, or VPC, for transportation to your new duty station or to a contracted storage facility. You can find global VPC locations, schedule your turn-in or drop-off appointment, and view POV shipping and storage documentation requirements on IAL’s website, PCSmyPOV.

Note: Some OCONUS countries do not allow POV transportation into the host country. Check with your local transportation office for country-specific restrictions. In these situations, you can store your POV at government or personal expense for the length of your OCONUS tour. Contact your local transportation office for storage authorizations and reimbursement options.

If you are a service member travelling within the 48 contiguous states, or CONUS, you can drive your vehicle to your new location or pay to ship one or more POVs at your own expense. The government will pay you a monetary allowance in lieu of transportation, or MALT, for mileage, fuel, tolls, and certain other expenses you encounter along the way. Be sure to save your receipts and tickets. In some cases, a service member may be allowed to ship a POV between CONUS duty stations if he or she is physically unable to drive or has insufficient time to drive and report to the new duty station as ordered.

If you’re a civilian employee changing duty stations within CONUS, you may be allowed to ship up to two POVs to your new duty location if the new CONUS destination is further than 600 miles away. There are other exceptions, so check with your servicing civilian personnel office or local transportation office if you have questions.

NTS, or non-temporary storage, is long-term storage of your belongings generally used instead of shipping your items to your new duty station. Expect the storage location to be located near the origin or pickup location where items may remain for the duration of your tour. When you return and have established a new address, you can request retrieval and shipment of your stored belongings. There may be restrictions on CONUS NTS, so be sure to contact your local transportation office if you have any questions. NTS is approved for CONUS PCS (exceptions may apply) and OCONUS PCS.

Note: For retirement: NTS may be authorized for 1 year beginning with retirement date, and may be extended for up to five years.

Note: For separation: NTS may be authorized for 180 days, and may be extend one time for an additional 180 days.

Related Forms:

For information about shipping special items such as boats, motorcycles, firearms, pro gear and more, review the entitlements moving guide or contact your local transportation office.